In Which I Write a Letter to Eliza Victoria

Dearest Eliza,

I’d like to think that I’m not an asshole.

I’m not nice. I’m not kind. I’m surly, and miserable, and impatient, and I don’t like most people.

Even then I’d still like to think that I know better than to judge other people by how they look.

I would never greet someone with “ang taba mo na!“, or be so dickish as to side-eye a fat person for doing something as normal as eating.

But then I was reading your novel, Dwellers, and I came upon this:

You are so fat, you are so useless, you take up the space meant for better, more disciplined people…

It hit me like a ton of bricks.

And I realized that yes, I’m an asshole.

I don’t think I’m prejudiced. I don’t think I’m an insensitive bitch. But how many times have I stared disdainfully at fat people on public transport, irritated that they were taking up too much space and making life difficult for us “normal” ones?

I could try and excuse it as a side effect of this country’s terrible transport system. I could argue that “I don’t really mean it” and that I’m just “irritated”.

I could insist that I’m not a dick till I’m blue in the face, but it wouldn’t make it less true.

I’m an asshole, even if I don’t mean to be one.

Even if it’s not all the time.

Even if my default setting is decent human.

Because that’s what it means, doesn’t it? That I believe myself better, more deserving of space because I’m thin and therefore socially acceptable?

I read that line from your novel over and over and over again. I know it’s not the core of your story. I understand that.

But for at least a couple of minutes I forgot the whodunit and wanted to bury my face somewhere no one will find it, because I was ashamed.

I guess that’s how it is when your ugly thoughts are thrown back at you.

So thank you, really. It stings a bit to have my ugliness laid out bare – to actually put them into words and make me realize that I have quite a long way to go before I become the decent person I imagine myself to be.

PS: your novel is excellent, as always.

In Which I Am Happy To Identify With Wizard Howl

In an unprecedented move, I actually finished a Korean drama without prompting. In the past, I would only watch those shows if (a) they are funny; and (b) they have incredible dance moves, i.e. Kim Sam Soon.

Now. I am the sort of person you can easily drag down multiple rabbit holes. I cannot just read one page of TV Tropes. No. I have to go through every interesting link I find. It is not surprising to find more than twenty tabs of TV Tropes open once I get started.

So it should come as no surprise that watching You From Another Star resulted in three things:

  1. My obsession with Jeon Ji-Hyun’s makeup.
  2. My obsession with the accuracy of the historical aspect of the show.
  3. My obsession with the book The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.

The protagonist of You From Another Star identified with Edward Tulane — a china rabbit who is punished because he doesn’t know how to love other people — and the book is referenced multiple times in the show.

Particularly notable is this quote:

I have learned how to love. And it’s a terrible thing. I’m broken. My heart is broken. Help me.

I read the book. I hated it.

I know it’s a book for children. Doesn’t matter. It still has to answer for its senseless premise: why would you even expect a china rabbit to know love?

What the hell is wrong with you?

(It is perhaps quite obvious now that I really dislike the book. Frowny face here.)

But this post isn’t about You From Another Star, or Edward Tulane, or love.

It’s about identification.

Frankly, I feel bad for the dude who identified with Edward Tulane. It’s so bleak and unhappy to identify with such a dramatically unfortunate character. Sure, the ending’s happy, but I don’t think I want to identify with a rabbit who has his noggin broken into 21 pieces.

Nope.

I mentioned once before that Howl’s Moving Castle is my favorite book. With much deference to Hayao Miyazaki’s version, I have to say that the book is one hundred percent more magical and more meaningful as far as I am concerned.

This is because the movie creates a Howl that is almost one million times different from the real Howl — a thing I have decided to talk about now.

Or eventually.

Let me start by saying this: when I was younger, I lived my life like I was Stephen Chow in a Stephen Chow movie. God of Cookery is remarkable to me because of two things. First, it is one of the funniest films I have ever seen. Second, it taught me that you can be a terrible person and it will all be fine, as long as you are smart.

You can be a total asshole and nobody will care, because you’re the asshole who gets things done.

So for most of my teenage years, plus my years in college, I honestly believed that I could be as horrible as I wanted and it would be fine, because I’m the Stephen Chow in this Stephen Chow movie.

Until, of course, I got out of school and into “the real world”.

I learned two things then:

  1. I’m not actually that smart.
  2. People skills count.

I had zero people skills, because I spent most of my life assuming that my brain would get me through. It’s hard to work with people when you don’t like people and you’re scared of people, and all your false bravado is swept away.

I can still get things done, and occasionally people still think that I am pretty good (at whatever it is I do, I’m not quite sure what, either), but the problem is that I know the truth now, and my youthful hubris is gone.

So.

Let’s get back to Wizard Howl.

Howl is intelligent and a good wizard, but not really quite the best. He’s okay. He’s mediocre.

He’s vain. He’s shallow. He’s stuck up.

He tries to slither out of things. He throws tantrums. He’s an absolute terror when ill.

He’s afraid.

When I first read Howl’s Moving Castle, I immediately fell in love with Sophie Hatter. Author Diana Wynne Jones once noted with much mirth that she found it weird how so many women wanted to marry Howl despite his terrible personality.

I read the book but I didn’t want to marry Howl.

I wanted to marry Sophie.

Because Sophie is the dream.

Howl is scared, because he knows his limitations. His bravura requires that he be show-offy and dramatic, but in truth he knows he’s almost always in over his head.

He’s constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, for people to realize that he’s mediocre rather than excellent.

With Sophie, though, there’s no need to put up false pretenses, because she already knows his weaknesses and she doesn’t care.

So every time I feel scared, overwhelmed, anxious, in over my head, I crack open my copy of Howl’s Moving Castle and let Sophie take care of me.

In Which I Say God Save Me, Because I Just Discovered Steve McQueen

Yes, yes, obviously I’ve heard of Steve McQueen.

It’s just that I’ve always assumed that he was some sort of fashion designer, like Marc Jacobs or Michael Kors.

And then Cars came out, and someone told me Lightning McQueen was named for him, because he was cool and loved to race cars. Okay. Filed him under “someone similar to Paul Newman” and that was it.

I wasn’t a big fan of American TV shows and movies when I was growing up. My parents were crazy for Shaw Brothers action flicks; eventually we rented nothing but Jackie Chan and Jet Li movies from the neighborhood betamax rental place. I graduated to Mark Gor and got far too enamored with triad films.

The only American actor I knew in my younger years — apart from my beloved Adam West and Burt Ward — was Charlton Heston, aka that dude who made television unwatchable during Holy Week.

[Quick story: Burt Ward was my first crush. The first one I can actually remember, I mean. For at least a year, I was convinced that Ringo Starr’s You’re Sixteen was our theme song. Eww, I know. Sorry. I was eight.]

I think I was in fifth grade already when I started paying attention to American TV and movies. I watched whatever my older cousins watched, like Star Trek (the one with Patrick Stewart, not Shatner). It wasn’t until Buffy the Vampire Slayer that I was really into it, though.

[Let’s keep the “I’m an idiot” theme alive, shall we? Second quick story: for a very long time I was convinced that Data from Star Trek was called Liberace. Like that’s his name, instead of Data. I have no idea why I believed this. And I didn’t find out about my mistake until I was 28 fucking years old. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.]

So it’s not like I ever had a chance to like Westerns, you know?

No one in my family was interested in cowboys. Chow Yun Fat’s Mark Gor was the gunslinger of my young life; why would I even need to watch foreign films to get my bang bang fix?

More importantly, my first brush with a Western was dismal. Horrifying. Traumatic.

I’m talking about Back to the Future 3.

I loved the first movie. I loved it so so so much. These days, I still stop to watch whenever I chance upon it on TV.

But that third movie? Ugh. No. Never.

And so it wrecked cowboys for me.

Until I watched Justified.

I refuse to shut up about this show, because no one I know offline has seen it and I am pissed and I want to talk to people about Boyd Crowder and Raylan Givens and how they should run away and just live happily ever after together. Preferably still shooting people from time to time, of course. (I also want to talk about Tim Gutterson, but that’s a different matter altogether. Hormones are involved.)

That said, I suppose I should mention Firefly first. I didn’t even realize it then, because I’m that dense. I was so focused on the futuristic/space age portion that I flat out didn’t think of the fact that Mal is a space cowboy. (And I’m a space cadet, as it turns out.)

It says that right on the tin, and I ignored it.

That’s when I decided that I actually like Westerns. I like the sassy heroes. I like the smarmy villains. I like the murky gray area of morality they all tread. Best of all, I like how they just shoot everything and everyone in sight. (Also, my favorite triad movie forever, Exiled, is pretty much a classic Western set in Macau.)

So I decided that it was time to rectify my mistakes. It was time for re-education.

I went on Netflix and watched The Magnificent Seven.

And that’s how it happened.

In the first few scenes of the movie I was like, okay, that’s the King and I guy. And then Steve McQueen comes onscreen and acts all sassy and cool and… well… maybe this gif does the explaining better:

Excited-Louise-Bobs-Burgers

[Note: I’ve seen Seven Samurai, but it’s not my favorite Kurosawa film. I like Ran best.]

I am so smitten with Steve McQueen that it’s threatening to derail my re-education. I was supposed to watch The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly next, but now I just want to look up all of his movies and watch him out-cool everyone.

My question now is rather odd: am I allowed to fangirl about a dead person? Is that acceptable? Is it not weird to be smitten with someone who is no longer alive?

I’m dead serious about this, guys.

(Heh, dead.)

(Sorry.)

Valar Morghulis, Robot Jellyfish

IMG_1579

This is a drawing my niece made for me, I think maybe five years ago.

It’s one of the few decorative objects in my work cubicle, and despite the rather flimsy material has survived multiple office moves.

In case it isn’t obvious, that’s a robot jellyfish.

I write this because in the last few weeks, people around me have been reminiscing. She was perfect. She was unbelievably well-behaved. She was an angel.

Not that it isn’t true, of course. Sam was really one of the nicest, kindest kids I’ve ever met. She was almost always in an unnaturally good mood.

All well and good, but that’s not all she was.

More than nice, she was intelligent.

She was whip-smart.

She was incredibly witty.

I want to remember her as that — a badass child who thought an already scary sea animal ought to be weaponized and let loose upon the unsuspecting masses.

Please, look at the drawing again.

Look closely.

Look at the motherfucking teeth

Other people can hold on to their remembrance of her as a sweet, beautiful child.

I’d rather cling to my memories of a funny, intelligent, slightly crazy, robot-jellyfish-drawing badass baby girl.

In Which I Greet My Friend Jason On His 30th Birthday

As you may have gleamed from this earlier post, it’s not easy for me to find friends in real life.

It’s tough making real connections when you’re a testy bitch with poor social skills.

I won’t be surprised if you assume that Jason is my imaginary friend.

Except he’s not.

I met Jason maybe more than a decade ago (I can’t remember exactly when). We were both contestants in a college-wide history contest — neither of us won.

Whenever we reminisce about the contest, he insists that we both did great despite neither of us winning; it’s a very generous version of what actually happened. I remember feeling seriously outclassed during the contest. After all, I had no idea what the capital of Burkina Faso was.

(Trivia: it’s Ouagadougou.)

He didn’t walk into the contest venue.

I clearly remember him swaggering in.

I won’t lie and say I liked him immediately. Even from afar I could tell that he was brash, loud, and kind of a blowhard. Not really the sort of guy I’d hang with, you know.

But he was smart.

Oh so very smart.

And if there’s one thing you need to know about me, it’s this: I can overlook a lot of things when massive intellect is involved.

I didn’t like him immediately, but there’s no denying that I was impressed.

(I still am, really. Dude’s brain is filled with so much trivia I don’t know how he fits anything else in there.)

Fast forward ten years, and we’re still friends.

In a way, it’s kind of surprising.

Jason is infuriating.

He never knows when to shut up.

He can turn a casual conversation into a raging argument in the blink of an eye.

He is all-around inflammatory.

 A decade in and he’s still unrelenting, brash, loud, and still a bit of a blowhard.

You know, what, though?

This friendship makes perfect sense.

I realized recently that many of my funniest memories begin with the words “that one time, my friend Jason and I…”

Quick digression — a brief list of my favorite memories involving this guy:

  • Got buzzed hours before a birthday party we were supposed to attend; drove halfway to his house (he lives way out in the sticks) instead of the venue before we realized the mistake.
  • Then when we got to the venue, he started hitting on all the college girls (we were a year or two out of college, I think). I was the world’s shittiest wingman. I did nothing but grin at people.
  • I fell asleep after a beer drinking contest and woke up to him shaking my leg. Long story short, he woke me so he could sing and dance “Yeah Yeah Bonel” to a captive audience (aka Me).
  • Got smashed on cheap tequila while in Tagaytay. We were chatting on the balcony and I was trying my fucking hardest not to vomit my guts out. Every time I turned to face him I would get woozy, so I said, “Jason, nasusuka ako pag tinitignan kita (Jason, looking at you makes me nauseous).”
  • Went drinking in Tomas Morato (macho mug, hells yeah) and afterwards we decided to go to Manila Bay so “he could visit his merpeople”. (I don’t know if this is still true, but at that time he was convinced he was a merman.) Fucker let my drunk ass sleep on the sea wall. I could have fallen into the water, asshole.

(I realize that all of these stories are drunken shenanigans, but the truth is that I’m so boring and regular that I don’t really get into shenanigans unless I’m smashed. Also, they’re not really very good shenanigans, are they?)

There is no one out there who makes me laugh louder than this bastard.

He has zero boundaries, no concept of propriety, and a tongue that fears nothing. I want to hate him sometimes, but you can’t really hate someone who makes you laugh non-stop every time you meet.

He gets me to play hooky when I’m trying to be a responsible adult.

He makes me laugh over the stupidest shit.

He traps me into these long-winded, senseless arguments that leave me angry/amused.

It’s all seemingly contradictory.

Here’s a guy I logically shouldn’t like because he’s the opposite of nearly everything I am, but I cannot imagine myself not being friends with him.

So here’s to my favorite bastard, my trusty drinking buddy, my fucking awesome friend.

Happy birthday.